Meet Long-standing Member and Past President Chuck Taubman
by Joshua Tseitlin
Raised in the Beverly/Fairfax district of Los Angeles, Chuck, a long-standing member and past president (1982-84) of Congregation Beth David, was the first of his family to be born in California. At a young age, he was surrounded by Jewish culture in a predominantly Jewish community with multiple synagogues. However, Chuck’s Jewish life in LA was secular, and after his Bar Mitzvah he became distant from the rituals of Judaism. Still, Chuck knew his roots, reinforced daily by his family, Jewish friends and the lifecycle events they celebrated. He took that attitude with him when he moved to Silicon Valley for his undergraduate degree and then to Boston for his graduate degree (and where he met his wife, Barbara).
When I asked Chuck how his Jewish life had developed in those early years. He recounted three pivotal moments. The first one began in Boston at the home of Barbara’s cousin, who asked him to conduct the Passover Seder. Frustrated by his inability to lead and embarrassed at his lack of knowledge, he slowly began to learn and focus more on his Jewish identity. It helped considerably that Barbara was raised in a more traditional Jewish home. Years later, when they were married and living in Sunnyvale, neighbors (the husband was a retired minister) invited the family for a Friday night dinner at their home. Knowing that Chuck was Jewish, the minister asked him to recite the blessings over the wine, but, again, he was unable to say the proper prayers—another reminder of the gaps in his education that limited his ability to participate in his Jewish heritage. The third and final straw for Chuck occurred when their son and daughter were attending religious school, and they came home with Hebrew class assignments. He could help them with their public-school classes—reading, history, math—but he felt he was letting them down by his inability to coach them in Hebrew. That’s when Chuck finally decided to take control of his Jewish life. He began to attend Congregation Beth David’s Hebrew classes, with Barbara adding Jewish ritual into their family life, and delved deeper into his Jewish identity through study and practice.
Chuck emphasized this involvement with Jewish life was and is a joint endeavor with Barbara. Indeed, it was her involvement with Sisterhood, including being Education Vice-President and Sisterhood President, that motivated Chuck’s future board service. Barbara also is one of the 13 remarkable women in our first adult B’not Mitzvah group. She has been the synagogue financial secretary, almost from its, inception and has been a member of the congregation library committee. For 19 years Barbara and Chuck have hosted the weekly Torah classes taught by the rabbis of the Jewish Study Network.
Talking to Chuck was an amazing experience! As a sixteen-year-old, I am going through the same thing Chuck went through. After my Bar Mitzvah, I lost touch with my Judaism and have had trouble keeping connected. This is why I chose to be a part of the Building Bridges program.
At first, I didn’t think I would get much out of participating in this program, but that changed after speaking with Chuck. He showed me that although I may not have it all figured out now, I have time to grow and find my appreciation for my Jewish heritage. Chuck’s enthusiasm and outlook on life showed me that patience is key.
After Chuck talked with me about his appreciation for his Jewish heritage, he left me with a final note, which resonated with me more deeply than I could have imagined. He said, “If we have any hope of tradition being passed through our children and grandchildren, we have to live that life.”
Building Bridges is an exciting new initiative at Congregation Beth David formed to connect teens and college students with longstanding Beth David members. For more information, please contact Helaine Green and Bonnie Slavitt, Building Bridges coordinators at BuildingBridges@beth-david.org